Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Don't Know Much

I don’t know much, about anything really. I suck at historical remembrances, have not a clue about literature, can barely do rudimentary math in my noggin and I shan’t even begin to try and explain how little I know/understand about any sort of science. I was a horrific student when I was in school, as little as that was, and I fear I haven’t learned how to, learn, any better as an adult. I’d love to think that I have a bit of a handle on human behavior but I’m learning even that is something beyond my Flinstonian scope of comprehension. Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m not a total WalMartian, (I think I stepped foot in one of those joints once, like 20 years ago…scared the living shit out of me) I know the basics, who’s in office on both the national and local level and I keep up with current events that don’t involve celebrities but if you are picking teams for Trivial Pursuit or whatever, well I am so not your girl. 

“You know he and I started here at the shop right about the same time. He already had a love for wine and had an inkling that this was to be his life’s work although in an entirely different way where I was still being clubbed over the head, kicking my feet and trying to resist this whole thing” me telling a story to one of my favorite customers about our ex-employee and much adored Eric Mohseni. Eric and I started at The Wine Country within months of one another and as I was telling Bill, we had two very different paths in mind. His to move on and eventually become a winemaker, never any question as to where his path would lead him, me…well I had no idea if there was ever going to be anyplace for me in this foreign world of wine, so my path was my next paycheck and another day being able to provide for my son. Eric and I came of age as it were within the walls and with the support of Randy and The Wine Country. We tasted deeply, learned as best we could, danced in a doorway to Into the Mystic, and agreed it was the best song ever from Van Morrison. Argued and acquiesced, struggled with the basics of drunken desire and young passion and in the end, Eric became a winemaker, a very accomplished one that makes the wines at Zaca. Mesa Winery as well as his own label, Osseus…and me? Well I’m still here.

“You ever think he sits back and thinks, ‘I’m a winemaker and Sam’s still there?’ Bill, (that one of my favorite customers guy)  posing the question in my direction as I drove an opener into the woody flesh of my however-many-thousandth-cork. I felt my shoulders tighten like they do when a question is asked that I feel like I know the answer to but my years of self-doubt and insecurity have my lips and voice tightly laced between their fingers. Took only that shoulder relaxing, tug, “creek” and, “whoosh” of the freed cork for me to find just enough of my voice, my pride and my “education” to muster, “You think I’d have it any other way?”  I guess I can see how a customer, even one that adores me, can see winemaker as the epitome of making it in the world of wine but that “dream” was never mine. 

“I didn’t really like retail. I didn’t hate it but I preferred the prestige of being a sommelier” the silky textured tone and words from a voice that has always been able make me swoon coming through the telephone line. The words unintentionally insulting but my knowledge of his heart and the fact that this “confession” was not intended to hurt me let me scrunch my ugly mug silently on my end and my whisper of, “You are aware I still work retail right?” lost in the endless loop of convivial conversation and he didn’t even hear me. He didn’t need to. His dream or want much like Eric’s, so different from mine, if I even had one. Aware and definite but miles from what I could see myself doing, wanting, pulling off, being good at or having enough enticement to keep me interested in. 

“Maybe you should practice that” and “You know, with a little hard work you could be really good at this” words I never heard growing up. I was never urged to hone any bit of skill I might have had, never told to focus and never encouraged to do more than find a way to steal the heart of some poor schmuck and retain a boyfriend…a skill I am assuming meant something to my mother, probably because it was all she was ever encouraged to do as well. Don’t argue too much, don’t challenge him too much, and don’t forget to make him feel wanted and special. Where I was supposed to fit in there I never knew, and maybe it never mattered. The women that sought to form me were woefully lonely and miserable but somehow felt that it was their philosophical duty to restrict and teach me how to be. Pretty fucking grateful that I was a shitty student…

“I sometimes buy my wines at another store. Don’t be mad, they have some California wines I love. Anyway, they always try and get me to buy Champagne and I just keep telling them no. So the other day the one guy there asked me what was up with that? Like did I hate Champagne or something? I was honest with him and told him I only buy my Champagne at The Wine Country and you know what he said? He said he admired Samantha’s Champagne department and her courage to go balls out with those grower wines years before anyone was. Isn’t that cool?” I stood there, eyes beginning to fill with tears of pride as this loyal and adorable customer retold me his story. “Um, yeah, that’s pretty damn cool”…all I could think to say.

“I always liked wine but never loved it until I started shopping here”

“You’ve never let me down”

“I was in yesterday but you were off….I told them I’d just come back. I need your help”

“This is so great. These are all so great”

“You and your selections always make me look like a hero…so I guess in a way, you are my hero”

“You write about wine with the voice of a woman. The heart and compassion of a woman. No one else is doing that. Most wine writing is that man thing, that I went out and got it thing. When I read your blog I get to feel you succumb to wine, like a woman and I dig that”

“I’ve been reading your blog for years and Samantha; it is so nice to meet you”

Yeah, I don’t know much and I’m still here at a less than prestigious job but, fuck I love it and no matter the offers I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m still tasting deeply, still learning each and every day and on top of that I get to be a part of people’s dinners, celebrations and moments of ached for relaxation. Me. I get to be there and they not only remember me for it, they come back and reward me with second, third, four hundredth chances…insane.

Got a text message New Year’s Eve, right about thirty minutes after all the fanfare and fireworks, “Happy New Year you” all it said. I scrolled though all my contacts with the stealthy precision of a woman that had been drinking Champagne for six hours, my one working eye feeling the weight of burden as the other was firmly slammed shut in proper drunk girl Popeye fashion. No name attached to the out-of-area-code number so I knew it wasn’t someone I talked to often but there was something about it, the last bit, that “You” that tugged at my heartstrings and rang a very comfortably familiar, albeit long ago tone.  Eric. It was my long ago Eric, thinking of, remembering and wishing me a Happy New Year. Random but so powerfully sweet and assuring to me. I don’t know much but I know wine, how to laugh…….how to love enough to leave a mark and somewhere in this ill-fitting and less than “educated” shell, I’ve found a voice that comes blurting out of me all oily and confident. When I think of the empty and lifeless lives of the women that raised me and how sallow and acidic their daily tone, well it makes me want to stomp around in muddy puddles, say fuck a whole lot, drink enough to act foolish and love so deeply that I may be remembered fondly. 

I’m no peach nor am I a student of anything other than life. I’ll never be the most popular, the most beautiful, smartest, the most compelling or the most wanted and that dream, it belonged to those sad women that beat themselves up for not being able to teach me anything. The ones that died alone and left a legacy of guilt and secrecy. I’m going to stay on my path of, “Dunno what might happen” that still pays the bills but has brought me, and taught me, more than I could have ever dreamed.  I’ve failed plenty and I’m sure that isn’t about to change but when I get it right, the perfectly ripe and oozing cheese with a wine that wraps around it with saturated fruit, appropriate pitch, density and searing intensity, the right bottle in the hands of a person that has, without their even knowing it, been longing for it, my words strung together in a way that inspires people to come in and meet me. This is the path I’ve chosen and would chose over and over again. 

No fame, no fortune and no real glory…I mean other than truly pleasing my customers and every once in a while getting a note or text that assures me that the path chosen is one that triggers others to open their mind, palates and heart. I’m way cool with that….


Veronica said...

I couldn't agree more. Bravo!

webb said...

You're a teacher and a helper of the best kind. You encourage people to grow.

There are lots of us who find our niches in the helping fields. Maaybe its a nurturing role that comes naturally to us. Maybe its just luck.

The glitz and glitter are for some, but the meat, potatoes and wine are for others.

Thomas said...

It's good to know what you want and to accept it when you get it. Working with people, although often frustrating, also offers those rare times of accomplishment.

A couple of my dearest friends started out as customers many, many years ago.

Samantha Dugan said...

Cheers to you my fellow retailer!

The fact that I encourage anything is a very real gift to me. Who would have thunk?

Between the store and this place here, well I've met and become close with some of the coolest, most amazing people. Astounding really. Oh and Lambrusco is way delicious so you are wrong there...

Thomas said...

Wrong? First time for everything...

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,
I did prefer being a sommelier to working retail, and there is a mysterious prestige to it that I never understood, or even agreed with. In fact, of all the people I know in the wine business, it's the ones who work retail who know wine the best--and that certainly includes you.

I started a retail shop because I thought I would like it. I didn't. The crap attached to it, the things you often write about here, the score-chasers and the endless tastings for customers, was more than I could bear. That's my shortcoming. Plus, being a sommelier pays a LOT better.

And, by the way, you're very beautiful and very wanted.

There are lots of ways to have a fulfilling and joyful career in wine. Sommelier, retailer, winemaker, vineyard manager, sales rep... I don't see one path as better than another, and I don't think you do either. I'd make a crappy winemaker, and I was a crappy retailer. Actually, I was a crappy sommelier, but I got away with it.

What you really are, Samantha, is a great writer as well as a great wine expert. And this entire piece, moving and thoughtful and powerful, proves that. Nice to hear that Voice again, your open and beautiful heart. It's been a while, but it's always worth the wait.

Like everyone here, I love you!

Samantha Dugan said...

You're wrong about celery too.

Ron My Love,
It took me years to truly understand how much I love the retail end of the wine business and I honestly think I would suck, ginormously, at most if not all the other avenues of this business. I have a big dumb heart and this ridiculous need to share it. Ends up crushing me lots of times but....well the closing it off didn't serve me well either. My job, and this place too I guess, give me a platform to share with people the things I've learned, make wine accessible for some folks, lead them to the wines that will move them and my lame stuff here I can only hope might make a tiny difference for someone out there. Probably stupid thinking on my part but, like I said, I'm no student so stupid I can do like a pro. I love you Ron Washam, eternally.

Thomas said...


Am not.

Samantha Dugan said...

Are to....now this is where I run up, give you a peck on the cheek then run away right? xxxx

Thomas said...

No way. Even back then, I went straight for the tongue...

Samantha Dugan said...

Why you cheeky little thing you!

Winey The Elder said...

"Don't know much" compared to what? You are blessed with an extraordinary knowledge of the heart and, thankfully, that's not a trivial pursuit.

Your words, your musings, the knowing hug of a woman who will long be remembered after the "factoids" of the day have faded like so many before them.

Never been in the wine biz, but I think i'd be most at home in retail; it's the nurse in me that needs to be closest to the people, and the odd note/text or held hand that reminds me of what matters. You matter, Samantha. And I know that much.

Samantha Dugan said...

I know you can't possibly know but what you just said, "Samantha you matter" after the week I've just had...well sweet man it busted my heart wide open and left me in a flood of warm feeling tears. We may never meet Winey but you need to know that you and your sweet gesture by way of comment here...rescued and patched up a corner of a very broken heart. Thank you gentle stranger, thank you so much.

Charlie Olken said...

Ah, Samantha, I guess I could just say "What Ron said", but why be brief when I don't have to be.

Reading through this piece, I realized again what a great writer you are. When you talk from your heart, you bring the world alive. Those of us who in the wine biz are lucky that you are too because you could be selling great produce or pastry and probably be happy fulfilling your customers needs--and writing for them and the folks in those industries.

Great writing is a precious commodity. Knowing a great writer is a gift I treasure.

Samantha Dugan said...

Sir Charles,
Well my loving friend, I would say you and Ron are far too easy with your praise of whatever it is I do here and I consider myself beyond lucky and humbled by it. To have two men with so much talent and knowledge even take the time...well it means the world to me, as do you. Thanks for popping by sweetheart, I needed that.

Sara Louise said...

Yeah, that's pretty damn cool! xo

Samantha Dugan said...

Aint it though?

Rogue Wino said...

I *love* hooking people up with a good wine. Serving is drudgery, but the genuine smiles when people try something delicious, it makes it all worth it.
Our culture promotes this idea that we aren't complete until we reach the top of our fields, but that's bullshit. Nevertheless, you should work on putting together a book or something of that nature, not for the glory of being published, but because wine writing needs a voice like yours.

Samantha Dugan said...

Rogue Wino,
Wow, getting knocked about with love punches here the past day or two. Thank you for the kind words. I'm sure no one needs me, not even my grown ass son anymore but...so long as a handful of you still want to hear me, well it means a ton.